Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Protest Group Threatening Suit Against Police

Recreate 68' Seeking $50 Million, Department Defending Officers Actions Saying any trust had been lost with police, organizers of the protest group Recreate 68 announced plans Tuesday to sue the City of Denver. “The promise at the beginning of all of this was, ‘We stay peaceful, they stay peaceful,’” said Glenn Spagnuolo, co-founder of the group. "We are talking to attorneys about suing the city of Denver," said Mark Cohn, also a founder of the protest group. Speaking through a bullhorn to reporters outside the Denver Police Department headquarters, the group’s organizers accused police of illegally detaining and arresting of people Monday night, when tensions escalated into a stand-off between police and protesters. Denver police said it made limited use of pepper spray paintball-type bullets when the crowd, estimated at 300 people, refused requests to disperse. Many were observed carrying rocks and other items that could be used to threaten public safety, according to a statement released by Denver Police Tuesday morning. "Some individuals I represented in court had nothing to do with the protests at all,” said Brian Vicente, Executive Director of the People’s Law Project. “They were penned-in and were not allowed to leave." Denver Police Lt. Ron Saunier defended the actions of police. "Through the indications of a lot of things we felt (the protesters) were getting ready to move down, start creating destruction of private property, and possibly assaulting people," Saunier said. Eighty-five people were arrested on charges of obstruction, disobeying lawful orders, and interfering with a police officer, Saunier said. Police surrounded the area of 15th Street and Court Place out of concern for public safety, Saunier told 7NEWS Tuesday. "We pretty much circled around (the demonstrators) and contained them within that area in an effort to deescalate the situation which it did," Saunier said. Spagnuolo verbally fired back Tuesday, accusing police of whipping up tension with protesters in the hour before demonstrators dawned bandanas and linked arms on Bannock St. “(Police were) pushing them with their feet saying, ‘move out of my way,’ instead of treating these people with respect,” Spagnuolo said, adding the incidents occurred when much of the media was not around. "They were building up that confrontation and this is what it lead to, it was totally unneccary," Spagnuolo said. "It became clear very early on, through the totality of all circumstances, that their intent was not to be there to express their first amendment rights," Saunier said of the increased police presence in the park at that time. “There’s a lot of footage out there where officers were taking quit a bit of abuse and remained very professional,” Saunier said. Cohn disagreed and said the group is considering seeking $50 million in damages -- the same amount Denver was award by the federal government for security. “We're not sure what was done with that money but we think it's about time that some of the money go to people who've been victimized and whose civil liberties have been violated during this convention," Cohen said. Related Story: * August 27, 2008: Police Officer Tells Protester 'Back It Up, B*tch'

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